With the end of summer looming and back to school commercials inundating nightly TV time, most of us want to soak up the last few weeks of summer with a good old fashioned beach vacation. However, if you are anything like me, you loathe having to lay down your beach towel and umbrella with a fellow beach goer right on your toes. Crowded, famous beaches are all fine and well but if you want to have your privacy and seclusion, you have to do a bit of digging. In the U.S. South, from the Atlantic coastline to the Gulf of Mexico shores, there are plenty of secret and hidden beaches away from the masses. Before you have to close the books on summer, consider taking your shovel and pail to these hidden beaches in the South.
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida: While the carloads along the Overseas Highway bypass Bahia Honda State Park for Key West, those in the know pull over and take advantage of one of Florida’s best beaches. Sprawling across 524 acres in the Lower Florida Keys, this state park lends 2.5 miles of sandy coastline to explore. Activities in the area include kayaking, swimming, fishing and snorkeling. In addition to turquoise waters and sugary white sands, Bahia Honda State Park lets you soak in the dramatic scene from the remains of the old railroad to the Keys on Bahia Honda Bridge.
Sapelo Island, Georgia: To reach some of the best, hidden beaches, you usually need to take a boat ride. Sapelo Island in Georgia is no different. The small barrier island is only reachable by boat on a 30-minute ferry ride. Home to the Geechee, direct descendants of African slaves, Sapelo Island also boasts a great culture unlike anywhere else in the U.S. The beaches on the island are pristine, undeveloped and not crowded. One of the best beaches on the island is Nanny Goat Beach, home to some of the most extensive undisturbed natural beach dunes on the Georgia coast. Sapelo Island sets up 8 miles northeast of the town of Darien.
Ship Island, Mississippi: Located roughly 11 miles off of the coast of Mississippi, Ship Island remains hidden merely due its setting. Part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the barrier island laps up pristine gulf waters. Ship Island is also home to some of the finest beaches in Mississippi and some of the most secluded. Ship Island is only accessible by ferry from spring through fall. In addition to the fine beaches on Ship Island, visitors can also get a dose of history in between dips. Ship Island houses Fort Massachusetts, a brick fort from 1868 that was built for national defense.
Pawleys Island, South Carolina: When you step on to the barrier island of Pawleys Island, you are gracing the sands that attracted everyone from George Washington to Winston Churchill. In fact, Pawleys Island in South Carolina is one of the oldest seaside vacation destinations on the East Coast. Pawleys Island has been welcoming visitors, famous and not so famous, since the 1700s. Perched on the south end of the Grand Strand, the island only stretches four miles long but it packs in the punch with some of the best-maintained and widest beaches in coastal South Carolina.